Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The blogging slump continues, but I want to say what an honor it was to sing the premiere of Hillula last night. (We’re now considering this the real premiere; last year was really more of a workshop of parts of the whole.) The experience was at once private and public, a new feeling for me in terms of performance. Usually, once I get to performance time, it’s only about the sharing, about conveying a message to the people in the audience, moving them. But last night, I simultaneously wanted to share it with the world (look, hear, see how beautiful this is!) and keep it to myself (so special, so personal)... not unlike a new love. This work has been three years in the making, and last night was both a completion (the work) and a beginning (the life of the work). Judd and spent the train ride home brainstorming about what that life should be, exactly...

Also on the ride home, I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done immediately after a performance: I listened to the recording. I just wasn’t ready for it to be over... of course I heard things I didn’t like, but nothing that I wasn’t fully aware of in performance. A misplaced breath here, a slight chip there... details. But there were some other moments that just took my breath away. Not because I’m such a great singer, but because this piece inspired some of my best singing; Jocelyn, too, had moments of brilliance. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more beautiful, more tuned-in partner in this endeavor. When it ended (all 18 minutes of it), I took out my earbuds and said to Judd, “Thank you. I am so honored to have been part of bringing this to life.”

So honored.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eat Food

I was tagged for this meme twice, by Alex & Tim, so I guess I need to get out of my blogging slump and get to it. (Looking in the archives, you can see that every month for the past couple of years I seem to average about a post every other day. This month, I’ve barely got a post every four days... weird. It’s not that there’s nothing going on, I’m just not blogging. Not sure what to make of it, but I think I’ll just let the slump ride itself out...)

But back to the meme. Here are the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

“Studying cultured human cells, he’s found that “deficiency of vitamins C, E, B12, B6, nicin, folic acid, iron or zinc appears to mimic radiation by causing single- and double-strand DNA breaks, oxidative lesions, or both” - precursors to cancer. “This has serious implications, as half the US population may be deficient in at least one of these micronutrients.” Most of the missing micronutrients are supplied by fruits and vegetables, of which only 20 percent of American children and 32 percent of adults eat the recommended five daily servings.”

This book has absolutely confirmed my eating habits, and encouraged me to be even more diligent. For the past few years, I’ve been eating a diet very similar to the one encouraged by Pollan’s “Eater’s Manifesto:” Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. If all the recent scary news about the food industry has you thinking about your diet, I encourage you to pick up this book. Heck, I encourage you to pick it up anyway. The information about the history of nutrition and the commercialization of food, not to mention the fads of our diet culture, is incredibly eye-opening.

I tag Coloratur...aaah, Melear, Little Ms Bossy, Nick, and Thom.

Off to Princeton in about an hour. Remember to tune in tonight at 8pm for the concert, streaming live at the Princeton music department homepage. Hillula will be the second piece on the first half of the program. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bullet Points are the new black

I feel like I should rename this blog “bullet points.” I hate to resort to such measures, but this writer’s block is getting out of hand.

* In addition to being unable to write, I haven’t been singing that much in the past couple of weeks. Part of it is an intentional break - the past few months were pretty insane! A little “vocal vacation” is good, but now it’s time for the down time to come to an end. But every time I started to think about singing this week, I remembered this blog post (via oboeinsight). Do my neighbors hate me?! We all exchange pleasantries in the hallway, but aside from the German interior designer who shares our walls, none of them really know that I’m the resident opera singer. If they did, would they shun me? I am aware that I’m loud, but I try to avoid singing in the morning, only doing a short warm-up if I have a late-morning audition, and I never sing past seven in the evening. I rarely practice at home on the weekends. I know that people in NYC have unusual schedules, but I try to stick to a general “working day” framework, assuming that most people will be out of the building at that time. I haven’t gotten any complaints, but now I wonder...

* I’ve updated the biography and added some photos to my ACB@mac website. Check ‘em out! And... I’ve enabled comments, so be nice.

* Here’s the promised Hillula news: The concert on Tuesday will stream live on teh internets!! The concert starts at 8pm and will stream live from Princeton’s music department home page. I don’t know where Hillula will be on the program, but I encourage you to log on and listen to the whole thing if you can. Jocelyn and I are really proud of our work, and I’m sure the other performers and composers are, too. Maybe somebody could live-blog it!! Kidding. Kind of.

* (Other Hillula-related news: I think we’ve decided to seek an endowment for The Bhakti Project. I have no idea at this point what this will entail (other than, oh, a lot of money), but we’re starting to brainstorm and build a team. More later...)

* This weekend is totally full of awesomeness: A date to the Brooklyn Art Museum to check out the Murakami exhibit in preparation for DJA’s big premiere on Sunday. Saturday dinner. Sunday brunch at a NYC institution. The George London masterclass, which is being led by my former step-father (in the operatic sense) Richard Stillwell and my fellow OperaNow! podcast guest Frederica von Stade. And then the Brooklyn Phil concert at Drom. Go Darcy!! Jammed packed with awesomeness, tell you what.

Ok, so I couldn’t quite get to everything tonight. There are three half-finished bullet points that I’ll get posted tomorrow morning before the Weekend o’ Awesome begins. They’re all kind of related: voice lesson stuff, singing stuff, and Terfel-Martineau stuff. (IB: They rock.) Hopefully this brain drain will clear something out and let me get back to regular blogging... heh. No promises.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dreams of Flying

The photography on this site has been giving me no end of joy today: Jan von Hollenben. (via form meets function; guess it’s time to do a Blogroll update...)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Beginnings

Spring has finally arrived in NYC, and I’ve been pulling out my summer dresses in anticipation of putting away the scarves for good. Well, at least until I start carrying one all summer to deal with southern air conditioning. I’ve eaten outdoors every day for the past few, and tonight I’ll head to Brooklyn for some bluegrass. Tomorrow, I’ve promised my camera that we’ll spend some time together...

It’s been a busy week, lots of thoughts if not a lot of action; a mentally busy week... I did manage to catch the inspiring 8bb concert and rub elbows at the after-party. Meeting Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Steve Reich, and Jeremy Denk was pretty awesome, but more so was feeling a part of that community, toasting with people I consider my friends. I am very lucky to have landed there. I think it’s safe to say that 8bb are rockstars; that was some seriously sexy new music... (**Edited to add: Go here for some photographic evidence of the elbow-rubbing and rock-star-ness.)

I also had a voice lesson today for the first time in more than two months, and oh how grateful I am for my teacher. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster around here, career-wise, and he helped settle me a bit. I am still working some things out in my voice, still finding my way, and we made some fine progress tonight. I walked out of the lesson feeling back in control of my voice, friends with it again, and seriously excited about my next few gigs.

I know all of this is kind of vague, and I’ve been a little quiet here, but sometimes living life doesn’t allow time to blog about it... Next week should be a little quieter so I’ll try to get some thoughts down. There are new thoughts about The Bhakti Project, too, and news about the Hillula performance on the 29th. But for now, it is spring, my voice is my friend, and there is a song in my heart!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

News, links, etc.

Some tidbits from various online sources:

* You can see some pictures from Sing For Hope: By Leaps and Sounds! over at the Children’s Aid Society website. What a great afternoon!

* I joined Camille Zamora, co-founder of SFH, in recording an interview with Michael Rice, host of OperaNow!, the opera podcast, for a special segment on performers giving back. We were joined by Janice Mayer of Classical Action and Frederica von Stade, who recently presented a concert for Classical Action with Jake Hegie. You can listen to the whole podcast here (or download it from iTunes); our segment starts about twenty minutes in, I think. But you should listen to the whole thing. It’s deliciously irreverent.

* I’ve been having a terrible time keeping this a secret. Yada yada yada, indeed!!

* I haven’t been able to update since I got my Mac, so I am talking with a web designer about building me a new site. If that happens, it will likely go live in the fall, so until then, I made a temporary site using iWeb. So easy!! Check it out here:

That’s all for now!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The scene

I'm late to get on the Hilary Hahn bandwagon, not for reasons that have anything to do with Ms. Hahn herself, but more with the fact that I listen to very little classical music on a regular basis. After spending a few days with Nick on tour in February, he encouraged me (by example, not with words) to listen to more (Bach, particularly), and I've picked up a few recordings, most notably one of Bach concerti. (The D Minor is my favorite; the saddest of all keys...) I've also enjoyed her writing on her website, candid and insightful and funny.

So I was thrilled to read a couple of things today that indicate she has "indie classical" tendencies! Steve Smith's review of her concert with Josh Ritter at The Other Met sounded like programming perfection: Erlkoenig paired with a modern folk song called "Oak Tree King." Fabulous. And then Feast of Music reported on Hahn's post-show show at DROM, a Lower East Side bar. How much fun would THAT have been? I'm definitely going to check out the next "classical" show at DROM, if only because it involves toy pianos.

In related news, I was devastated to miss the MATA festival a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful to hear reports of successful (understatement) premieres and performances by friends and colleagues, people who I respect and admire. As I was hearing a run-down of one night's program, I felt like I was hearing about a party that my friends threw without me! I was equally so excited for the success of the Festival and of their music, and heart-broken not to be there celebrating with them. I love being part of this "scene," even cursorily as I seem to be right now. I am honored to call these musicians my friends, and to dream about future collaborations. For more on that, check out the New Amsterdam Records site and see how the community is growing. Join up, even! All are welcome.

I guess now would be the perfect time to remind those of you in the NYC area that the revised version of Hillula will premiere on April 29th as part of the Princeton Composers Ensemble, 8pm in Taplin Auditorium on the Princeton campus. Excited doesn't begin to express how we feel about this...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Head Games

It’s been a rough couple of days, career-wise, and I can’t really get into it here without lots of thinly-veiled references. There are some important ideas to try and get across, though, so I’m going to try my best.

I sang an audition yesterday for someone I sang for recently in a different forum, and while the first instance was far from a bomb, it, um, wasn’t terribly well-received. I was nervous today in a way I haven’t been in a while, the butterflies in my stomach almost making me nauseous. For a brief moment, I considered “calling in sick.” How was I going to redeem myself? What if I didn’t?

I’ve been learning - or trying to learn - a lesson recently: not everyone is going to love what I do. Art is subjective, people have deeply held ideas of what is “right,” blah blah blah... I know all those things, but it is still unsettling to hear that someone really disapproved of the way I sang something. And then to have to put myself out there for their judgement again? Not an easy day at the office.

So, I steeled myself as best I could, made sure I looked fabulous, and armed myself with standard arias. I thought about my interpretations, how I wanted to present these arias that EVERY soprano sings. Should I scale myself back, give a more vanilla interpretation? Try to guess how they think the characters should be presented? No way. I’m an acting singer. Anything less than my full interpretation of a character, an aria, is not really acceptable to me. I would go into this audition and show them that in addition to the somewhat unorthodox and slightly unpolished (and very tired...) singer they heard before, I am also a bit of a purist. I would rely on good singing and musicianship to show my stuff. And if they still didn’t like it? Well, then there wouldn’t be much more to worry about.

I got there a bit late, and they were running early, so I paused for just a minute to give the pianist a rundown of my pieces, and we were on. I sang my first piece (Mozart), and they asked for Juliette, just as I’d hoped (I have really come to love that aria...), and I sang it with all my heart. And then, when it was over, since there was time, we actually talked about the previous audition! Compliments were paid and disappointments expressed, but more importantly, honest thoughts were expressed from both sides of the table, and I walked away feeling like I had just engaged in one of the most constructive conversations of my career. Not in terms of “oh yeah, I totally got the job,” but more in a sense that I presented myself well to someone who wanted me to do well, and had been stymied by the fact that I didn’t.

It was a draining few days, but as with every hurdle, I came away feeling more in command of my self as a singer. Ultimately, it’s up to me to believe in my work, to know that I can deliver a product that I am proud of. Like I said, a hard lesson to learn... Stay tuned for further chapters; I’m sure there will be many.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Yesterday morning, I woke up in the dark. Before I opened my eyes, I recognized that I was waking in a new bed, not the one I was in the day before. “Where am I?” Joyfully, my subconscious responded, “My own bed!!”

Yes, I’m back in my little hobbit hole for a lovely bit of “down time.” I have a total of four performances (all local) in the next six weeks; that feels like a perfect pace! And yet, it’s going to be busy: A few auditions. Rehearsals with Jocelyn for the premiere of the revised version of Hillula on April 29th. Studying music for the ASO concerts in May. A few performances of Macbeth. I’ll spend some time with the scores of Candide and Ariadne, too, over the next few weeks.

And then of course, there are concerts (of the indie rock and indie classical variety) and recitals to attend. Dinners and drinks to be had. Family to relax with, friends to catch up with, and the general wonder that is spring in NYC to enjoy. Lots to keep me busy, but plenty of time to breathe and smile.

I’m happy to be back in the land of wireless internet, so I hope to get back to a more regular writing and posting schedule soon. I have a few thoughts to get out still about The Rosina Experience; I think my time in Dayton will prove to be bit of a turning point for me, in many ways.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Umm, Mom?

Have you started writing for the Dayton City Paper? The review of Barber is really, really good... Just curious if you've picked up a little journalism on the side!

I'm off to our brush-up rehearsal. Can't wait to see how things have simmered and developed over our (lovely, food-filled) days off!

More soon...
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